Age ten, in a huge screened cage,
hands protected by thick leather gloves,
I held a frightened chipmunk.
It squirmed. I squeezed
too tightly, then stuck it
into a pile of leaves
to hide its dead body
from the counselors. Discovered,
I was banned from the zoo. The shame
burned my cheeks.
Age eleven, issued
two safety matches, a menu,
ingredients, a reflector oven,
I made empty #10 cans
into pots, skillets. Dressed in white,
I represented my cabin
in the “Chef’s Cap”
cooking contest, won
four years in a row.
(Now it’s All-Clad on a natural gas flame, an infrared broiler.)
Almost sixteen, my final year,
I volunteered to be chaplain
on the “See America First” bus tour,
put together eight
dittoed prayers and passages
from the Prophets and familiar liturgy.
The campers, Jews, denounced
my efforts as too Jewish. Someone else
was assigned my duties, my blue-on-white copies
tinder for the campfire as we tented in Zion.
All summer I took 35mm color slides,
now like fossils caught in amber.
Winter Harvest: Jewish Writing in St. Louis 2006-2011, The Brodsky Library Press (2011), p. 54